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Justice Thomas Urged to Cancel Speech

Justice Clarence Thomas Justice Clarence Thomas (File photo)

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  • By Thomas B. Edsall
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Tuesday, February 2, 1999; Page A2

    A liberal advocacy group yesterday called on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to cancel a Lincoln Day speech to the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank pressing for the resignation of President Clinton.

    "Justice Thomas has a high responsibility to appear nonpartisan and impartial on issues that come before him," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

    Lynn told reporters that the Claremont Institute not only actively supports the ouster of Clinton, but takes stands on such controversial topics as affirmative action and gun control.

    "Inevitably, people will construe Thomas's appearance and speech at the Claremont Institute's premier national event as a high-level endorsement of the group and its goals," Lynn said. Lynn contended that the issues raised by a Supreme Court justice speaking to such a group overrode questions of public debate.

    Supreme Court spokesman Kathy Arberg declined to comment. An attempt to directly contact Thomas's chambers was unsuccessful.

    Thomas has drawn attention in the past for his decision to speak before various conservative organizations, including the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and National Empowerment Television, which is associated with the Free Congress Foundation.

    Larry Arnn, president of Claremont, defended the speech and his own organization: "The Claremont Institute is a non-partisan organization" that for 20 years has conducted "serious academic research into the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and the traditions that flow from them." The institute, he said, believes in "the independence of the judiciary."

    Thomas is scheduled to be the dinner speaker Feb. 9 with game show host Pat Sajak serving as master of ceremonies. Other speakers during the day include Terry Eastland of the American Spectator and William Kristol of the Weekly Standard. The Claremont Institute receives substantial financial support from Richard Mellon Scaife, a conservative donor who has helped finance investigations into the Clinton administration.

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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